December 7, 2014 – Every Sunday night for the past four years I have published a column about politics and government. I am grateful that you made space in your busy life for my slants. I am not ready to give it up yet, but I do need either a vacation or a less taxing schedule. Please be patient. I will return, even if not as frequently. Dick Miller www.weconnectdots.net
(210) November 30, 2014 – This past session, State Senator Bob Robbins’ primary legislative objective was known as Senate Bill 733. The proposed state law amends Title 45 (about Legal Notices). It gives municipalities, school districts and local authorities the option to electronically publish legal notices on a notice website rather than in a newspaper as is currently required by law.
This is the third time Robbins has introduced this bill in a Pennsylvania Assembly two-year session. The current session ended today and, for Robbins, SB 733 is unfinished business as he retires after a combined 32 years’ service first in the PA House of Representatives (1983-90) and then the State Senate (since 1990). He did not seek re-election to his 50th District West Central PA seat this year.
Robbins estimated local government and school district legal advertising cost taxpayers $100 million per year.
Bolstered by a sagging economy that increased numbers of foreclosures and tax sales, one estimate was $4 million annually to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and $3 million to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The impact is not as great in Philadelphia where the weekly Philadelphia Public Record exists primarily to reduce the times when the more expensive Enquirer grabs the legal notice.
Robbins never endeared himself to print media, frustrating reporters by seldom being available for comment.
Thanks in part to a conservative constituency and a Democrat organization that cannot walk and chew gum simultaneously, Robbins had an easy time being re-elected without print media notice.
Print media has lobbied intensely in Harrisburg to keep the bill bottled up in committee. Robbins believes the change will eventually happen from necessity.
“Before newspapers we had town criers,” Robbins said recently. He quotes a late 2012 poll by Quinnipiac University that indicates only 13 percent of those polled said they relied on newspapers for their political news and information.
Political print ads in statewide and national elections have almost disappeared although Gov. Tom Corbett did try a light blitz of full-page ads, but was not re-elected.
The four statewide associations for cities, townships, boroughs and counties remain mum because of their fear of the power of the press. Oddly, Robbins’ bill had an impressive list of bi-partisan signers, but only he battled print media head-on.
Robbins’ resume reads like a candidate for State Senator.
A West Point graduate, the Greenville native completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. He earned over a dozen medals for his service as a company commander in an Airborne Infantry Battalion. Sen. Robbins obtained his teaching certificate from Geneva College. He taught and was head wrestling coach at Greenville High School. Even while a legislator, he was the voice of regional radio broadcasts of state scholastic wrestling tournaments.
The Senator has garnered more than two dozen awards for his commitment to the community, state and country in the fields of government, Boy Scouts. Sports coaching, National Guard, etc. He raised thousands of dollars for local Boy Scouts.
Politically, for over a decade he served as the state veterans’ chair of committees for Republican presidential and gubernatorial candidates.
Bottom Line: Democrat leaders did not like Robbins, but could do nothing to stop him from winning elections.